Vatican City, 18 September 2015 (VIS) – The Vatican Observatory is holding an international symposium to celebrate the eightieth anniversary of its transfer to Castel Gandolfo at the behest of Pope Pius XI, who decided upon the move since the lights of the city of Rome made it impossible for astronomers to study the less bright stars. The observatory is one of the oldest in the world, established in the second half of the sixteenth century when Gregory XIII erected in the Vatican the Tower of the Winds and invited the the Jesuits, astronomers and mathematicians of the Roman College to prepare the reform of the calendar promulgated in 1582.
Today the Pope received in audience the participants in this meeting, affirming that “the universe is more than a scientific problem to be solved: it is a joyful mystery that we contemplate with wonder and praise”. He added, “St. Ignatius of Loyola understood this language well. He himself said that his greatest consolation was to look at the sky and the stars, as when he did so he felt a great desire to serve the Lord”.
Francis recalled that throughout the years the astronomers of the Observatory have undertaken paths of research, creative paths following in the wake of the astronomers and Jesuits of the Roman College, from Fr. Christoph Clavius (celebrated for his contribution to the creation of the Gregorian calendar) to Fr. Angelo Secchi (pioneer of astronomical spectroscopy), by way of Fr. Matteo Ricci and many others.
“On this anniversary, I wish to recall Benedict XVI's address to the Fathers of the last General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, in which he remarked that the Church urgently needed consecrated persons to dedicate their lives to the frontier between faith and human knowledge, between faith and modern science. … In the context of interreligious dialogue, more urgent today than ever before, scientific research into the universe can offer a unique perspective, shared by believers and non-believers alike, to help achieve a better religious understanding of creation. In this respect the Schools of Astrophysics that the Observatory has organised in the last thirty years represent a valuable opportunity for young astronomers throughout the world to engage in dialogue and to collaborate in the search for truth”.
Francis also mentioned that during the symposium the members of the Observatory discussed the importance of communicating that the Church and her pastors embrace, encourage and promote genuine science. “It is very important that you share the gift of your scientific knowledge of the universe with the people, freely giving what you have freely received”, he said.
“In the spirit of gratitude to the Lord for the witness of science and faith that the members of the Observatory have given in these decades, I encourage you to continue on your path … with those who share the enthusiasm and effort of the exploration of the universe”, he concluded.